Review, Smartphone

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Quick Review: Keeping the Essentials

Samsung’s flagship smartphones are usually positioned as premium products with equally premium price tags, which is why the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE – that stands for Fan Edition – is particularly interesting. Not only does it cost quite a bit less than its higher-end siblings, it still retains the essential hardware of a flagship device.

If you want a flagship smartphone that doesn’t cost upwards of RM4,000, consider the Galaxy S20 FE – it retains the essential features of a high-end phone at a more affordable price point.

What It Is

Display6.5-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED (2400 x 1080), 120Hz
ChipsetQualcomm Snapdragon 865 2.8GHz octa-core
Samsung Exynos 990 2.73GHz octa-core
GPUAdreno 650 (Snapdragon 865)
Mali-G77 MP11 (Exynos 990)
Storage256GB (Snapdragon 865), 128GB (Exynos 990), expandable
Camera (rear)12MP f/1.8, Dual Pixel AF, OIS
12MP f/2.2 (ultra-wide angle)
8MP f/2.4 (telephoto), PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom
Camera (front)32MP f/2.2
Dimensions159.8 x 74.5 x 8.4 mm
OSOne UI based on Android 10
Connectivity5G (Snapdragon 865 only)
Bluetooth 5.0
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax (2.4/5GHz)
USB Type-C
PriceRM3,399 (Snapdragon 865), RM2,699 (Exynos 990)

Compared to the rest of the Galaxy S20 smartphones, the S20 FE sacrifices on a number of hardware. These include a more modest triple camera system, a lower resolution 1080p screen, and a less premium plastic construction. However, it still has essential flagship features like a fast 120Hz screen, a high-end processor – either a Snapdragon 865 or Exynos 990 chip – and an IP68 rating.

The Good Stuff

Even though the Galaxy S20 FE doesn’t have the sharp QHD+ displays of its other siblings, at least the 120Hz refresh rate is retained. This is a very good tradeoff: I would happily use a fast 120Hz screen instead of a higher resolution display with only a conventional 60Hz refresh rate.

Thanks to the Galaxy S20 FE’s bright and vibrant Super AMOLED 120Hz screen, every single animation on the display looks extra smooth. This, in turn, makes gaming on this phone particularly enjoyable, though only certain mobile games support the high refresh rate. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed playing games like Genshin Impact on this device.

Speaking of which, the Galaxy S20 FE offers fast performance as well. Samsung sent over the higher-end S20 FE 5G model with a Snapdragon 865 chipset for this review, and without a doubt it can keep up with any tasks I throw at it. Based on my experience with other Samsung flagship smartphones, I reckon even the Exynos 990 chip – which powers the 4G variant of the S20 FE – will be able to deliver a similar level of performance.

The battery life of the Galaxy S20 FE is also one of its winning qualities. On average, the 4,500mAh battery can consistently return over six hours of screen on time throughout the review period. It’s worth noting that I got this level of battery life with the display set to 120Hz; turning down the refresh rate to 60Hz should further improve the phone’s already impressive battery life.

And then there’s the camera performance of the Galaxy S20 FE. Its triple camera system is made up of a 12MP f/1.8 primary sensor, a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide angle shooter, and an 8MP f/2.4 telephoto camera. Collectively, these three sensors can take good-looking shots, especially the 12MP primary shooter, as expected. Judge for yourself with these sample shots.

Overall, the Galaxy S20 FE has plenty of good qualities. Despite having to sacrifice on a number of hardware to bring down the price, it still feels like a proper flagship smartphone. That being said, no smartphone is perfect, so let’s get to the negatives of the S20 FE.

The Bad Stuff

Given its more affordable price tag, the Galaxy S20 FE certainly feels a notch below its higher-end siblings when it comes to build quality. It has a polycarbonate (read: plastic) back panel, which doesn’t feel quite as premium as the other S20 phones with a more solid glass back. Of course, if you plan to slap a case onto the phone, this won’t be a problem at all.

Aside from that, there’s also the finnicky fingerprint sensor of the S20 FE. Unlike its other competition with a similar sensor, this phone’s optical fingerprint reader isn’t quite as accurate as I would’ve hoped. This is by no means a huge issue, but it is a little annoying having to try multiple times before the sensor can accurately read my fingerprint.

Last but certainly not least is the asking price of the Galaxy S20 FE. Yes, it offers good value for money, but there are other devices at this price point that offers even better bang for your buck. The Xiaomi Mi 10T, for one, offers a faster 144Hz screen with the same Snapdragon 865 chipset for only RM1,699 – that’s half the S20 FE 5G’s RM3,399 price tag. Granted, the FE does have a more impressive Super AMOLED screen along with superior camera performance over the Mi 10T.

Is It Worth It?

If you’ve always wanted a flagship smartphone from Samsung that doesn’t cost too much money, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is made for that very reason. It may not offer the best value for money, but it has a fast, vibrant 120Hz screen, high-end performance, great battery life, and a reasonably good camera system.

Yes, RM3,399 for the 5G variant of the Galaxy S20 FE with a Snapdragon 865 processor is a little steep, but that’s why Samsung released the 4G model as well. It costs quite a bit less at RM2,699, and while you’ll only get 128GB of storage (instead of 256GB) and an Exynos 990 chipset, it’s still very similar to the costlier 5G variant.

All in all, the Galaxy S20 FE is a fantastic flagship smartphone from Samsung, and it’ll be interesting to see if the Korean company will replicate this strategy with its other flagship-tier phones, such as the Galaxy Note series. Keeping the essential features of a flagship device while lowering the price tag is proving to be a winning strategy for the S20 FE.

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